Spring butterflies Part I: small tortoiseshell and scarce tortoiseshell

Text and photos  Urmas Tartes
 Translation Liis
Small tortoiseshell
Small tortoiseshell     Koerliblikas or väike-koerliblikas        Aglais urticae
Scarce tortoiseshell      Valgetähn-pajuliblikas         Nymphalis xanthomelas
 One of the best-known harbingers of a “motley summer” has always been the small tortoiseshell. We can meet it all over Estonia. For many years a black-orange-yellow-patterned butterfly could almost infallibly be named as a small tortoiseshell. But today this  patterned butterfly seen in spring needs a closer study, because  the number of a very similar close relative has increased significantly particularly during the last five years – that of the scarce tortoiseshell.
Scarce tortoiseshell
Telling the small tortoiseshell and the scarce tortoiseshell apart needs attention but it  can be done visually. The scarce tortoiseshell is a little larger than the small tortoiseshell, its wing pattern is a little less clearly contrasting. The most striking feature is perhaps the basal area – nearest to body - on the top side of the hind wings: it is orange on the scarce tortoiseshell, mostly black on the small tortoiseshell. Springtime butterflies always have worn or even damaged wing pattern parts; that can sometimes mislead in the determination of a detail.
It does not matter if we first met the small tortoiseshell or the scarce tortoiseshell in spring – both foretell a splendid and varied summer. Even if the “lark winter” caused a little pause in their flights, that had started around Women’s day, they will delight us again as the weather turns warmer.
The book above helps you to learn to know the butterflies in Estonia. It introduces their habitats and way of life, and in addition offers pleasant reading too. Looduskalender believes this is the best butterfly book in the Nordic countries. Simple to use for a nature fan and a beautiful gift for the start of the butterfly year.
The butterfly book was still on sale last week; you can buy it from major booksellers or their online stores.




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